The Week in Review: August 18, 2023

Linguists at MIT are doing some really interesting research into how children acquire expletive words in their native languages.

No, not those kinds of expletives. In the field of linguistics, the term “expletives” refers to a very specific kind of word that has no explicit meaning. If you’re interested in language acquisition, it’s a story you won’t want to miss. Plus, the United States Department of Justice recently updated its language access plan — a worthwhile read for those of you interested in language access and the legal system.

And if you’re looking for more business-focused news, we’ve also got blog posts and press releases from Smartling, Eriksen Translations, Bilingual Global, and even more.

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Studying how children learn words with no meaning (via MIT News)

In the field of linguistics, the term “expletives” refers to words that, while necessary in certain contexts, don’t have an explicit meaning — for example “it” in the sentence “It is raining outside.” While “it” doesn’t have any clear meaning here, it’s also necessary for the sentence to work grammatically.

How children acquire these words and make sense of them when they’re learning their first language remains a bit of a mystery to linguists. But some researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are trying to change that.

“The standard assumption is that word learning is a process of mapping word-forms to meaning. Expletives are immediately interesting as they clearly don’t conform to this assumption,” an associate professor of linguistics told MIT News. “In this project we aim to ascertain how children learn expletives. We hope this might show something about the nature of these elements and also about the assumption that word learning involves mapping form to meaning.”

Justice Department Releases Language Access Plan to Expand Access to Department Resources and Programs (via United States Department of Justice)

The United States Department of Justice has released a new language access plan that aims to improve the quality and quantity of translation and interpreting services offered in the nation’s justice system. Check out the link above to read the new plan in detail.

“Expansive language access furthers the Justice Department’s mission to uphold the rule of law, keep our country safe, and protect civil rights,” deputy attorney general Lisa O. Monaco said in the release. “I am proud of the work the Department is doing to modernize, streamline, and improve our language resources and policies to better serve all Americans, including individuals who face language barriers.”

Larian eventually adds names of Baldur’s Gate 3 translators previously uncredited by localization firm Altagram (via Game World Observer)

The developers of the video game Baldur’s Gate 3 found themselves in hot water recently after players and localization professionals noticed that the game didn’t feature any credits for a handful of translators who’d worked on localizing the game.

“Translators for @baldursgate3 worked for 3 years translating more than 1 million words and @Altagram_Group only credited their execs & leads,” one localization director tweeted last week. “Let’s be clear: this practice is always unethical, but here, like with Persona before, it’s downright EVIL.”


After the tweet went viral, the studio behind Baldur’s Gate 3 tried to put the fire out as quickly as possible, releasing a statement and adding the translators’ names to the game’s credits.

Asylum Seekers Need More Access to Translation Services for Indigenous, Marginalized Languages (via Teen Vogue)

Respond Crisis Translation’s head of Less Frequently Requested Languages, Valentina Callari Lewis, recently made headlines with an op-ed in Teen Vogue about the importance of improving translation and interpreting services for asylum seekers who speak Indigenous and marginalized languages.

“Many of our clients have been forced to languish for months in detention centers without seeing a single person who speaks their language or can help translate their case,” Callari Lewis writes. “The violence of the US asylum system, with its militarized borders and immigration prisons, gets compounded by the cruelty of language deprivation.” 

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